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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HEARS FROM 18 DIGNITARIES AS IT CONTINUES ITS HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

25 February 2019

The Human Rights Council during its midday meeting continued with its high-level segment, hearing addresses from dignitaries from 18 countries, who spoke about human rights violations across the world and the deterioration of respect for human rights, the Council’s role in promoting human rights worldwide, as well as challenges that multilateralism had been facing, and the responsibility of States to address these problems through cooperation. 

Anders Samuelsen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, lamented that human rights and liberal freedoms were under pressure around the world, making it even more vital to stand up for the rights of vulnerable people everywhere.  He emphasized that the Council’s most important task was to deliver on its mandate and make a real difference on the ground.

Alfonso Nsue Mokuy, Third Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea, confirmed the willingness of Equatorial Guinea to promote, guarantee, protect and consolidate human rights in the country and throughout the world, as well as its intention to continue its cooperation with the United Nations, and to build sustainable development, based on equality, peace and justice. 

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, said that the Holy See sought the advancement of the universality and indivisibility of human rights as an integral element for the construction of peaceful societies.  Mr. Gallagher noted that Pope Francis had recently reiterated the importance of a “serene and constructive discussion among States”, characterized by “good will and good faith”.

Tomáš Petříček, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that the Czech Republic was the driving force behind the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs.  The Czech Republic was deeply concerned about the plight of millions of Venezuelans deprived of their right to choose their representatives, and it recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim President. 

David Zalkaliani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said that human rights were violated on a daily basis in Syria and Venezuela and occupied parts of both Georgia and Ukraine.  Illegal detentions and kidnappings, as well as restriction of rights to freedom of movement along the occupation line continued, so Georgia was planning to re-table the draft resolution on cooperation with Georgia during the current session. 

Maria Ubach, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra, said that since its foundation, the Council had never ceased in its efforts to promote human rights, implement innovative and inclusive action, and leave no one behind.  The Universal Periodic Review was the review mechanism par excellence when it came to human rights.

Mustapha Ramid, Minister of State for Human Rights of Morocco, shared some new human rights measures implemented by Morocco in light of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.  Morocco had been uniquely engaged in promoting the human rights of migrants: 50,000 migrants had been given refugee status and policies had been implemented to promote the economic and social integration of refugees and migrants.

Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said that Uruguay had longstanding cooperation with international organs, including the Council, throughout the Council’s years of existence.  The position adopted by Uruguay following the crisis in Venezuela was in defence of democracy and respect for human rights.

Kyung-wha Kang, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, noted that last year marked the seventieth anniversary of the United Declaration of Human Rights, but lamented that the world still had a long way to go.  Ms. Kang lamented that there was still too much discrimination, inequality, marginalization and injustice in too many parts of the world.

Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, urged Member States to engage with the Council despite any issues of bias raised, as it was a valuable platform.  States should lead by example and should accept that their own human rights records be subject to scrutiny.

Abdulla Shahid, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that on 23 September 2018, the people of Maldives had elected democracy into office.  Maldives would continue with its advocacy on behalf of small island developing States in Geneva and elsewhere for urgent actions on human dimensions of climate change.

Srdjan Darmanović, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, lamented that the world was witnessing a deterioration of respect for human rights, and underlined the important value of political will and commitment to achieve universal human rights standards in every corner of the world.  He drew attention to violent extremism and rising nationalism as threats to human rights and global security.

Sergey Vershinin, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said that the Council had to refrain from the politicization of human rights in order to restore its credibility.  At this session. Russia would table a joint declaration against language discrimination.

Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, noted that Kazakhstan’s work was driven by the principle that human rights, sustainable development, peace and security were interrelated and complementary concepts. Great importance was attached to the empowerment of women and young people in the maintenance of international peace and security.

Claudio Avruj, Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, expressed Argentina’s desire to have a greater interactive dialogue with all civil society organizations, recognizing the important role that these played in the promotion of human rights.  Argentina believed in the significance of the Universal Periodic Review, and was committed to its continued participation in this process.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, defended Hungary’s vote against the Global Compact for Migration, stating that the negative effects of migration needed to be properly heeded, including the risk of ex-ISIS terrorists entering or returning to European countries.  He urged the Council to remember that border security was a matter of national security.

Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, emphasized South Africa’s belief that without access to human rights, holistic people-centred development was not possible.  He applauded the Council for being responsive to human rights violations, and said South Africa valued the link between the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, said that in an ideal world, they would not need the Human Rights Council.  Fundamental human rights that were the focus of the United Kingdom were freedom of media, protection of journalists, freedom of religion or belief, and prevention of sexual violence in conflict. 


At 4 p.m., the Council will hold its annual high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming, with a focus on human rights in the light of multilateralism: opportunities, challenges and the way forward.


High-Level Segment

ANDERS SAMUELSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs for Denmark, expressed Denmark’s steadfast commitment to human rights and multilateral cooperation.  Human rights and liberal freedoms were vital elements in order to achieve progress on sustainable development.  These elements were the basis for innovation and free trade, and essential to prevent conflict.  Global inequality was declining, with more people moving into the middle class around the world, while the percentage of people living in absolute poverty had fallen.  However, human rights and liberal freedom were under pressure around the world, making it even more vital to stand up for the rights of vulnerable people everywhere.  The Council’s most important task was to deliver on its mandate, and it was crucial that the work of the Council made a real difference on the ground.  The Council faced serious challenges in the way it functioned, and it needed substantial reforms to ensure that it delivered on its mandate.  Much too often, countries were elected as members of the council in spite of their dismal human rights record.  As such, Mr. Samuelsen encouraged more countries to stand for election on the Council.  He regretted the situation in Venezuela, noting that basic principles of human rights and democracy were under attack thanks to the repressive Maduro regime.  Syria was still bearing witness to human rights violations, and the Minister expressed deep concern for the alarming number of disappearances for which the Syrian regime carried the overwhelming responsibility.  He also noted with concern the ongoing human rights violations in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Russia.

ALFONSO NSUE MOKUY, Third Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Human Rights of Equatorial Guinea, confirmed the willingness of Equatorial Guinea to promote, guarantee, protect and consolidate human rights in the country and throughout the world, as well as its intention to continue its cooperation with the United Nations, and to build sustainable development, based on equality and justice.  In June 2018, the Government had convened a national inclusive dialogue with all political parties and civil society in order to foster social dialogue and find points of convergence.  In the economic sphere, in 2019 the authorities had held the third national economic conference to establish the foundations to reorient the national economy and align it with the Sustainable Development Goals.  At the social level, the Government had created 54 new urban districts, whereas in April 2018 it had held an international conference on human rights with representatives of non-governmental organizations.  The Government of Equatorial Guinea had also drawn up a national plan to combat trafficking in persons, and it had established a commission to review the country’s Universal Periodic Review, in cooperation with civil society.  The national authorities aimed to grant their citizens the best opportunities so that they could enjoy all human rights.  To that end, the Government would benefit from the United Nations’ technical assistance and capacity-building programmes. 

ARCHBISHOP PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER, Secretary for Relations of the Holy See, said that the concept of the centrality of the human person had emerged through history as the conscience of the peoples of the world, constituting the foundation of the corpus of the human rights instruments that the international community had elaborated in the last century.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized and affirmed that fundamental human rights stemmed from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person, and, therefore, applied to every stage of life and in every situation.  The Holy See sought the advancement of the universality and indivisibility of human rights as an integral element for the construction of peaceful societies.  Pope Francis had recently reiterated the importance of a “serene and constructive discussion among States”, characterized by “good will and good faith”.  Humans were increasingly living in a complex and interconnected world, where issues should not be seen, much less addressed in isolation.  The Secretary drew particular attention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stated that the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable right of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.  Upholding an international human rights framework was indispensable for fostering lasting peace and promoting human development.  On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Mr. Gallagher said that the Holy See renewed its commitment to the wellbeing of children.

TOMÁŠ PETŘÍČEK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, emphasized the Czech Republic’s commitment to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, its continued support for the Office through voluntary financial support, and its steady support for human rights defenders within civil society.  For example, the Czech Republic was the driving force behind the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs and he encouraged States to use the new guidelines for the effective implementation of the right to participate in public affairs.  The Czech Republic was deeply concerned about the plight of millions of Venezuelans deprived of their right to choose their representatives, saying that the Czech Republic recognised Juan Guaidó as the interim President of Venezuela.  Regarding Strategic Development Goal 16, he congratulated Cambodia, the Czech Republic’s priority partner country, on new initiatives promoting public participation in law and policy decisions, but stated that more could be done to create space for civil society and a free press.  Czech observers would monitor the Ukrainian presidential elections as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission, he said, reiterating the Czech Republic’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The Minister thanked the Council for their recommendations during the last Universal Periodic Review, most of which had been accepted by the Czech Republic.

DAVID ZALKALIANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said that human rights were violated on a daily basis in Syria and Venezuela and occupied parts of both Georgia and Ukraine.  Eight years of chaos in Syria had claimed the lives of over 400,000 people, displaced millions and resulted in the rise of various extremist groups.  Georgia supported the efforts of Juan Guaidó and Venezuela’s democratic transformation was encouraged with the aim to end the severe hardship imposed by the Maduro regime.  Systematic and serious human rights violations in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine were deeply concerning.  Georgia provided full support to the Special Procedures that represented another efficient tool to address specific situations.  It had extended a standing invitation to all Special Procedure mandate holders and had already hosted several visits.  The work of the Council could not be efficient without civil society.  The case of the civil activist, Tamar Mearaikishvili, abducted by the occupation regime in Georgia’s Tskhinvali region, was another example of how human rights defenders were silenced for their stand.  Last year, a resolution on cooperation with Georgia was adopted, reiterating serious concern over the human rights violations in Russian occupied Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali regions.  Illegal detentions and kidnappings, prohibition of education in the native Georgian language, as well as restriction of rights to freedom of movement along the occupation line continued, so Georgia was planning to re-table the draft resolution during the current session.

MARIA UBACH, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Andorra, said that since its foundation, the Council had never ceased in its efforts to promote human rights, implementing innovative and inclusive action, and leaving no one behind.  The Universal Periodic Review was the review mechanism par excellence when it came to human rights.  In the face of multiple international challenges, multilateralism remained the best method for sensitizing society and raising the awareness of citizens around the world as to the necessity of human rights.  The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals could orient the future of the planet towards peaceful and inclusive societies.  However, it would be possible to overcome existing challenges only if all stakeholders decided to work together in a coordinated fashion.  Andorra believed this change was possible and was committed to innovation as a driving force for transformation within society.  Even among resurgent attempts to crack down on freedom of expression, and the re-emergence of xenophobic and nationalist discourse, multilateralism must be guaranteed.  The Andorran Government had sought to make human rights a fundamental element of education, promoted non-discrimination within the school environment, and encouraged pupils to have a feeling of commitment and responsibility towards the promotion of human rights.

MUSTAPHA RAMID, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights of Morocco, shared some new human rights measures implemented by Morocco in light of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, for which he thanked the Council.  He pointed to the adoption of a new law on constitutional bodies to promote human rights as well as a series of laws against torture, fighting discrimination, and protecting the rights of the child.  Since November 2018, there had been a major structural overhaul of the Government to ensure compliance with recommendations, particularly regarding the protection of women as well as State provided medical care for certain categories of citizens.  Concerning the Moroccan Sahara, the Minister stressed the need for a permanent solution based on political consensus.  Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania had accepted to participate in a round table in Geneva on this subject in December 2018, which had been an important step in the process.  Morocco had accepted an invitation to a second round table next March, showing its commitment to the United Nations provided path to achieve a pragmatic and permanent solution to the conflict with Algeria.  Algeria was uniquely responsible for the ill-treatment of persons in the Tindouf camps.   Morocco had been uniquely engaged in promoting migrants’ human rights, giving refugee status to 50,000 migrants in Morocco, and implementing the economic and social integration of refugees and migrants.  In closing Mr. Ramid reiterated Morocco’s support for a two-State solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

RODOLFO NIN NOVOA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said that Uruguay had started its third period as a member of the Council, which was a pillar of multilateralism.  Uruguay had a history of longstanding cooperation with international organs, including the Council, throughout the Council’s 10 years of existence.  Uruguay would be cooperating with all States that sought to strengthen the Council in order to raise international protection.  International organs were seen as mechanisms of cooperation between different sovereign States.  This did not mean that Uruguay ignored the Council’s mandate to respond to severe human rights violations, in line with its mechanisms.  Human rights constituted the dignity of the human beings and societies they made up.  These were ethical values.  There was no hierarchy of rights that justified people being denied some of their rights, on the pretext of the legitimacy of others.  A paradigm shift was noted recently marked by an erosion of multilateralism and an increase of tensions and risks at regional levels.  It was true that multilateralism was being challenged.  Principles that governed the foreign policy of Uruguay included principles of self-determination, non-intervention in domestic affairs, respect for international law, rejection of use of force, peaceful settlement of disputes, and respect for human rights.  The position adopted by Uruguay following the crisis in Venezuela was in defence of democracy and respect for human rights.  The Montevideo mechanism and the International Contact Group were committed to peace and a negotiated settlement of the conflict.  The Contact Group supported a peaceful, democratic and Venezuelan owned political solution.  Uruguay did not want to contribute to a rising of tensions or polarization as there was a great risk of confrontation or even a foreign intervention.

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Minister for Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Korea, noted that last year marked the seventieth anniversary of the United Declaration of Human Rights, but lamented that the world still had a long way to go.  There was still too much discrimination, inequality, marginalization and injustice in too many parts of the world.  Ms. Kang regretted ongoing and systematic human rights violations, including in conflict situations.  Still, she emphasized that the world must not give up or lose hope.  Quoting Martin Luther King, she said “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”. She drew attention to the new technologies ushering sweeping changes in life and society, yet underlined that the implications for human rights remained unclear. Technology was only as good or bad as the use or abuse that was put to it.  She drew attention to the continuing issue of sexual violence in conflict, despite the efforts of rights advocates to end this insidious form of violence against women, and drew attention to the Korean Government’s efforts to support a victim-centred approach towards the issue of “comfort women,” supporting their aspiration for justice based on historical truth.  Noting the many remarkable changes in the Korean Peninsula over the last year, particularly the inter-Korean dialogue created at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, Ms. Kang underlined the need to resume the reunion of families separated across South and North Korea, and reported that the Government of the Republic of Korea was working to open a permanent facility for family reunion meetings.

GUDLAUGUR THÓR THÓRDARSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, urged Members States to engage with the Council despite any issues of bias raised as it was a valuable platform.  The Council could and should do more, and Iceland would strive to support efforts to that effect.  States should be led by example and should accept that their own human rights records be subject to scrutiny.  The Minister expressed concern at the rise of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines where thousands of people had been killed in impunity in the context of the war on drugs.  When the Council elected and re-elected States with bad human rights records, the Council could be perceived as being a protector of human rights abusers rather than of human rights.  More countries should serve on the Council, including small States, said Iceland, suggesting a rotational membership.  The Minister joined others in voicing concern for rising violence and discrimination against migrants, and the worrying rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.  He also expressed concern about wide spread repression in press freedom, and human rights defenders in places such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  Iceland advocated for the political resolution of disputes and for the peaceful return to democracy to allow humanitarian actors access to those in need in Venezuela.  Finally, the Minister expressed concern for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons being persecuted in Tanzania and Russia.  He placed these rights at the forefront of Iceland’s membership to the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

ABDULLA SHAHID, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that on 23 September 2018, the people of Maldives had elected democracy into office, and with an overwhelming majority said no to authoritarianism and yes to fundamental human rights and to freedom of assembly and expression.  President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had a vision to bring transformative change to the Maldivian society, where the respect for human rights was a way of life, where there was no place for tyranny, and where no Government could suppress individual liberty and freedom.  The President had established the Commission on the Investigation of Murders and Disappearances to scrutinise allegations of murder.  Climate change was a violation of basic human rights, as put forward by Maldives in the Council years ago, which had later culminated in the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.  Maldives would continue with its advocacy on behalf of small island developing States in Geneva and elsewhere for urgent actions on human dimensions of climate change.  In Palestine, the occupying power continued to violate with impunity and the Council had to remain united in condemning the atrocities that Israel continued to unleash and demand its immediate withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories.  The call for unhindered humanitarian access in accordance with international humanitarian law in Myanmar was reiterated.  International conventions and national legislation were not sufficient in fostering a value system that respected human rights.  All had to cultivate a culture, a way of life and a set of beliefs that respected fundamental rights.

SRDJAN DARMANOVIC, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, said that the Government of Montenegro was committed to defend and promote the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights at all levels.  He lamented that the world was witnessing a deterioration of respect for human rights, and underlined the important value of political will and commitment to achieve universal human rights standards in every corner of the world.  He drew attention to violent extremism and rising nationalism as threats to human rights and global security.  The Minister strongly condemned the continued gross and systematic violations of human rights, including attacks on civilians, violence and discrimination based on any grounds.  Montenegro reaffirmed its strong and unquestionable commitment to the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, for all cases.  The protection of the human rights of the child, particularly children in vulnerable situations, was another priority for the Government of Montenegro.  The importance of the critical role of civic society in various fields, particularly in strengthening a State’s democratic credentials, was stressed.  The Minister drew attention to the significant progress achieved by Montenegro in strengthening the institutional and normative framework, as well as in enhancing the promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups, in particular women and girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter sex persons, minorities, persons with disabilities, and children.  Global cooperation was the only possible and efficient way of addressing and resolving all challenges and problems.

SERGEY VERSHININ, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, said that in addition to longstanding conflicts, there were now tensions in regions, which had seemed calm a few years ago.  The structure of threats was changing rapidly and it required decisive collective decisions, including in the human rights area.  The Council had to refrain from the politicization of human rights in order to restore its credibility.  The coalition which was bombing Syria was trying to push through their resolutions in the Council.  Ukraine had draconian limitations against media freedom and there was a crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders there.  Still Ukraine had a technical resolution praising themselves.  Should all wonder then that the reputation of Council was in shreds? The Council had to respond objectively to any crisis and any attempt of double standards was deemed to fail.  Special Procedures carried out many investigations and an impressive number of thematic discussions.  However, they had to focus on one issue that had been disregarded, and that was language and discrimination based on language.  This was raised by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture and the Council had to say no to discrimination.  At this session Russia would table a joint declaration against language discrimination. Members of the Council should support it.  Issues of technical assistance and capacity building were not receiving sufficient attention and that was one of the main shortcomings.  There was much talk about the reform of the Council which would allegedly happen by 2021.  However, the main reformatting of the Council would serve no purpose and would be counterproductive.  Procedural changes could occur, if supported by Member States.  There were tendencies by Special Procedures to politicize the rhetoric and go beyond their tasks.  Russia would be candidate for membership for the Council for 2021-2023, and if elected it would ensure that the Council became a forum for genuine, constructive cooperation.

YERZHAN ASHIKBAYEV, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Kazakhstan, noted that during its membership of the United Nations Security Council, Kazakhstan’s work had been driven by the principles that human rights, sustainable development, peace and security were interrelated and complementary concepts.  Kazakhstan attached great importance to the empowerment of women and young people in the maintenance of international peace and security, and was convinced that promoting these issues was one of the best investments towards achieving sustainable peace.  The Deputy Minister drew attention to the ongoing systematic, democratic reforms in Kazakhstan, noting that, as a result, the promotion and protection of human rights had become firm and irreversible.  A unique body had been established in the country since 1995 to strengthen inter-ethnic harmony and unity: the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, which supported the revival, preservation and development of national cultures, languages and traditions of the people of Kazakhstan.  Kazakhstan continued to be positively and actively engaged with all United Nations human rights bodies, and drew attention to the fact that in November, Kazakhstan would go through its third Universal Periodic Review cycle, and was currently working on its third national Universal Periodic Review report.  Kazakhstan had put itself forward as a candidate for a second term as a member of the Human Rights Council for 2022-2024.

CLAUDIO AVRUJ, Secretary of Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, expressed Argentina’s desire to have a greater interactive dialogue with all civil society organizations, recognizing the important role that those played in the promotion of human rights.  Argentina recognized the significance of the Universal Periodic Review, and was committed to continued participation in this process.  Gender equality was a State policy for Argentina, and as such, its foreign policy worked to ensure a gender perspective in all international negotiations.  The fight against discrimination, xenophobia and racism was a priority for Argentina.  The Secretary drew attention to the increasing acts of discrimination around the world on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  He emphasized the importance of combatting homophobic and transphobic violence, beginning with repealing laws which criminalized lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  Argentina was drafting a National Plan of Action on Business and Human Rights to introduce the promotion of human rights within the private sector.  Argentina was continuing with the process of memory, truth and justice for the crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship in the country.  It was continuing to promote the universalisation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Forced Disappearance, and highlighted concern for the ongoing situation in armed conflict zones, and the humanitarian crisis that the world was experiencing.

PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, expressed his opposition to the Global Compact for Migration, challenging that migration was not a fundamental human right and defending Hungary’s vote against the Compact, stating that the negative effects of migration needed to be properly heeded, including the risk of ex-ISIS terrorists entering or returning to European countries.  Border security was a matter of national security and these should be sovereign decisions.  Christians were among the most persecuted groups and Christians who had fled their homeland needed physical and religious guarantees to return to their homes safely.  The representatives of the Orient Christians themselves had come to Budapest to ask Hungary not to encourage their fellow believers to flee their country, which was what the extremists in those region wanted.  The Minister expressed alarm at threats to the cultural rights of ethnic Hungarians, mentioning a draft law on minorities in Ukraine that would violate their human rights.  Hungary would not look at the issue in geopolitical terms and would continue to defend the human rights of its nationals.  He lamented the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for issuing reports that were biased against Hungary and encouraged the Council to look at the opinions of elected government officials rather than those of non-governmental organizations.    

LUWELLYN LANDERS, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation for South Africa, emphasized South Africa’s belief that without access to human rights, holistic people-centred development was not possible.  South Africa applauded the Council for being responsive to human rights violations, and it valued the link between the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.  South Africa would continue to work towards the strengthening and deepening of the multilateral system of global governance and a rules-based international order.   South Africa remained committed to the peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict and the realisation of the full rights of Palestinian people.  Particular attention was drawn to the plight of women and girls, who faced discrimination in sport and were subjected to discriminatory laws and practices based on their race and gender.  On 8 May this year, South Africa would hold its sixth national elections since its first democratic elections in 1994.  The Government and the people of South Africa wished to thank the entire membership of the Council for supporting and fully participating in the one-day commemorative event that took place in April 2018 in honour of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. Mr. Landers concluded by reiterating South Africa’s support for the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

LORD AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, said that in an ideal world, the world would not need the Human Rights Council.  In an ideal world, States and non-State actors would not violate human rights and those who did would face justice and be accountable.  Sadly, tragically, they did not live in an ideal world, which was why the Council was so important.  The United Kingdom would continue to be one of its steadfast supporters.  The Council faced many complex challenges and all had to work together to strengthen it and ensure that it was more ambitious and proactive.  The Council had to prevent issues that would arise tomorrow, and the United Kingdom was determined to do that.  Fundamental human rights that the United Kingdom focused on were freedom of media, protection of journalists, freedom of religion or belief, and prevention of sexual violence in conflict.  On media freedom, free media helped people form their own opinions and hold governments to account.  Yet 2018 had been the most dangerous year for journalists and 80 journalists had paid the ultimate price and been murdered, while another 60 had been taken hostage.  The United Kingdom had launched a campaign to champion media freedom.  Concerning freedom of religion or belief, the persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, Baha’i in Yemen, and the criminalization of Jehovah witnesses in Russia were alarming.  Discrimination in Pakistan persisted.  The United Kingdom played a leading role in the prevention of sexual violence and would be hosting a major follow-up event to galvanise the international community into further action. 



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/19/04E